1,2,3, or 4. Is It really that clear?

My school has finally adopted a new primary grade level report!  The new report cards are standards based!  Students will get either a 1, 2, 3, or 4.  A 4 means that the student exceeds the standard. A 3 means that students meet the standard. A 2 means that students are approaching the standard and a 1 means that students fall below the standard. 

This has caused me to do some new learning about new ways to grade.  In an article, Heather Deddeh and Erin Main state that a grade should communicate mastery of a learning standard. Well, our old report cards did not show this. 

Our old report cards were so vague. Students received one of 4 marks.  Satisfactory. Outstanding. Needs improvement. Improving. An O, S, N, or I.  I would sit with my stacks of report cards and think, “Well, this student isn’t really outstanding in this area but they’re also not awful either.” So guess what the majority of my students got? Yup, an S! And what accountablility was I required to show that each student was worthy of an S? Yup, very little.  It always felt that the grades were up to my whim.  And parents were always satisfied that their child did not get an N so I was never questioned. 

As I would work on my report cards in the past, the usual criteria would go through my head,  Did the student do homework on a regular basis? Did they participate in class? Did they make an effort? Is that effort worth as much as an actual correct answer? Is homework worth as much as classwork? Should a unit test have as much weight as other assignments?

The new reprot card seems to make this pretty cut and dry.  They master it, get it, or don’t get it.  I create an assessment for the standard and boom, there’s their grade.  If parents question the grade, it would be easy to pull up the assessment and show them how their child performed. I can see though how parents will have problems with their child getting a 1 or a 2 all year and then get a 3 or 4 at the end.  However, I feel that this will give a much clearer picture of a students’ ability than the old O, S, or N.

One struggle that is coming up is how to properly assess each standard. Performance assessment, essay, multiple choice, etc.  However, this has brought up a new level of creativity in me this quarter.  I am excited for this challenge. I have already done two of these assessments this year and the data that was collected was pretty clear.  These students got it and these did not.  I will have to reteach those students who did not get it and give them the opportunity to be retested. 

This whole process has brought one big question in my head. What is the best way to assign a grade for a student and how do you assess for that grade? Any ideas?


Donnie Dicus

Donnie Dicus

Tucson, Arizona

My name is Donnie Dicus and I have been teaching in Arizona for 12 years. I came to Arizona from Southern Illinois to attend the University of Arizona in Tucson. I graduated in 2003 and began teaching second grade. I taught second grade in Tucson for 8 years before moving to Phoenix. I now teach third grade. I achieved National Board Certification in 2012 and I received my Master’s Degree from Grand Canyon University in 2015. I achieved a National Board Certificate in Middle Childhood Generalist in 2012. I’ve been teaching mainstream and SEI 3rd grade classrooms in the Cartwright School District in Phoenix since 2013. I taught 2nd grade and was a math interventionist in Tucson in the Amphitheater School District. I’ve been a technology coach and have helped teachers apply technology to improve instruction. I facilitate coaching cohorts for teachers going through the National Board process and organize peer groups at my site to pair new teachers with experienced teachers. In 2010 I was nominated as a Rodel Semi-Finalist for Exemplary teaching in 2010 and featured as a Teacher Leader in February 2016 by the Arizona K12 Center.
I have class pictures of every single student I have taught behind my desk on my wall. After 12 years, that is approximately 350 students. My students know that this is my Wall of Accomplishments. I am so proud of the difference I made in their lives. I became a teacher to make a difference and I strive to do so every day.

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